Phase 1
Step 3

Capture your current practices

Timing - 180 minutes

In Step 3.1 of this activity, you will gather information on your current system, reflecting on the degree to which your system already exemplifies core Leading Through Learning behaviors. In Step 3.2, you will reflect on your current leadership practice and organizational structures across each of the Playbook’s four core drivers.

Back to Phase 1 overview

Now that you’ve recruited a team of collaborators, you can work together to paint a clear picture of the current learning and leadership structures, culture, and practice in your system. Your work in this step will help you understand existing assets and challenge areas and prepare you to develop a strong Theory. Note that this step relies heavily on the four core drivers laid out in our playbook, so it may be helpful to review them before getting started. 

Driver A Treat every strategy as learning

Driver B Foster democratic participation

Driver C Measure process and results to drive equity and improvement

Driver D Build a democratic knowledge-management cycle

In this stage—and throughout the Theory of Leadership development process—it’s critical that your team commit to honest reflection and a thorough investigation of current practice. To that end, in both activities in this section, you will need to collect data on your system. We recommend that you go outside your formal group of collaborators and seek feedback from a diverse cross-section of stakeholders who participate in and are affected by your leadership practice and learning structures. 

Be thoughtful about your framing of and approach to data collection.

  • Make clear why you are soliciting feedback — to improve system design and leadership practice, not to evaluate staff.

  • As possible, embed feedback collection efforts into existing routines (e.g., meetings, reflective stepbacks) or tools (e.g., surveys, meeting exit tickets), and consider what existing data can help you round out your analysis.

  • Think about who is best suited to lead interviews, conduct observations, and communicate with those providing input. In some instances, you may find it useful to invite more neutral actors (e.g., peers rather than supervisors, external consultants, actors who are newer to your system) to lead data collection efforts.

  • Protect time to analyze your data and capture your learnings. Especially as you wrap up your Theory of Leadership development process, it will be important to share your findings with contributing staff and stakeholders and communicate how you will be acting on the feedback they shared. 

Let’s get started.

Tools & Materials

Leading Through Learning Assessment activity template

Open in Miro

Step 3.1: Assess your practice against the Leading Through Learning principles


Each participant chooses a sticky note color.


Individually reflect on each Leading Through Learning statement, and determine whether you agree or disagree.

Place your sticky notes on the slider between “Strongly disagree” and “Strongly agree.”

As comfortable, add notes to your stickies to explain their placement.


Once all participants have had an opportunity to place all their sticky notes, discuss each statement as a full group.

Notice where sticky note placement has coalesced or diverged, and unpack potential reasons why.

  • Note statements where most sticky notes are clustered on the right side of the slider around “Agree” or “Strongly agree.” What leadership actions and organizational design decisions have supported this behavior?

  • Note areas where most stickies are clustered on the left side of the slider around “Disagree” or “Strongly disagree.” Why has this been a challenge area? What leadership actions and design decisions might help shift behavior in this area?


Adapt the Leading Through Learning principles for your own context and culture.

Where might you adapt the language in any of these principles to better fit the context and culture in your system or organization? Adjust the language in the table as needed.

Are there other learning and improvement norms or values in your system or organization that you would add to this list? Add any additional principles to the table.


We recommend drawing in additional input from stakeholders outside your immediate collaborator group. Consider:

  • adapting and administering this survey and noting responses on your Leading Through Learning Assessment activity template.

  • conducting empathy interviews by adapting the statements outlined on the Leading Through Learning Assessment activity template as interview questions.

  • repeating this activity with a larger group—for example, during an all-staff meeting.

The Leading Through Learning principles should strengthen the rest of your Theory development work. Consider creating a shared document that captures your adapted list and that you can keep beside you and test your work against.

Step 3.2: Capture your current practice and structures 


Navigate to Column A (Learning Structures) of the Current Practice Reflection activity template.


Discuss your current practice related to structuring learning in your system (e.g., organization, school, team).

Take notes in Cell A1 of the table.

As you discuss any already codified processes, tools, and resources you use, link them. When you develop your Theory of Leadership, it will be helpful to have these ideas and resources easily accessible.


Note any successes and assets related to structuring learning in your system.

Take notes in Cell A2 of the table.


Reflect on challenges and needs related to structuring learning in your system or environment.

Take notes in Cell A3 of the table.


Discuss the history of structuring learning in your system or enviornment.

Take notes in Cell A4 of the table.


Note any new ideas you have about structuring learning you’d be interested in trying in your system. 

Take notes in Cell A5 of the table. 

In this section, consider:  

  • Recommendations and practices you reviewed in the aligned Playbook driver (in this case, Driver A: Strategy as Learning)

  • Practices you have observed or participated in with other systems or organizations


Repeat this process with Columns B-D.


To ensure that you’re developing a robust picture of your current leadership and learning landscape, draw in input from stakeholders outside your immediate collaborator team. Consider:

  • repeating this protocol with a larger group (e.g., as an activity at an all-staff meeting)

  • conducting empathy interviews using the questions outlined on the Current Practice Reflection activity template